Doctors do it.

Lawyers do it.

So do athletes, professors, bankers and auto mechanics. Even dog-walkers do it. They all know a secret that allows them to market their product or service more effectively and charge more than their competitors for the exact same job.

They specialize.

Ask yourself this question: if you suspect you’re having a heart attack, do you want to see a ‘general practitioner,’ or do you see a cardiologist? And if your family doctor says you’re fine and your cardiologist says you’re not, which one will you believe? When your brand new car starts belching black smoke, will you take it to ‘Joe’s Auto,’ or will you look for a repair shop that specializes in your exact make of vehicle? Which will you have more confidence in?

 

That’s the power of specialization. Joe may be a great mechanic who would do exactly the same things to fix your car as the specialist would, but we pay more for the specialist because we expect a specialist to be more expert in the specific problem we have. Whether its objectively true or not, specialists enjoy a huge advantage of perception-they’re perceived as more “expert” in their niche and therefore, their work is considered more valuable than those who are “one-size-fits-all” providers.

The specialist’s advantage doesn’t stop with receiving premium payment for services, either. They enjoy the same advantage with customers who are shopping. Though they “forfeit” much of the broader, less specific market (which is more crowded and usually less profitable), their narrow focus produces a magnetic to customers in the niche they’ve chosen. Most often, by specializing in a narrow slice of the overall market, the specialist’s marketing efforts produce much more business than it would when competing with every other “general” provider-it’s tighter, laser-like focus allows the specialist to “own” his more narrow specialty.

Let’s see how this works for a used car dealer. Which do you think will attract more buyers: being one of the two hundred ‘general’ car lots that have all manner of cars, or being the one used car dealer in town that features only trucks and SUV’s? Our dealer forfeits shoppers looking for econo-cars or $995 specials, but he’s now the first choice of anyone seeking a good-quality used truck-he’s “the truck and SUV expert.” The focus on only trucks and SUV’s allows our dealer to be more knowledgeable about that area of vehicles, to carry a wider selection of them than “general” car lots do, to tailor his marketing to target the specific needs of truck-buyers (and in the specific places most likely to reach them), and to “own” the position of the used truck “expert” in the mind of the consumer.

 

 

 

So how can specialization boost your business? It may be simpler than you think. The key is to identify a market segment-a niche-which you can effectively focus on as an “expert.” Successful niches can be built around pricing (for example, only offering the “high” end of products in your category), age (‘expert insurance for the needs of seniors’), gender (think “Hair Club for Men”), delivery system (‘the only computer repair that comes to you’) or service type (such as a cleaning company that “specializes” in commercial office space.) Most importantly, the distinction must be something meaningful to a percentage of the market, and be something that a competitor doesn’t already “own.”

Once you’ve identified your niche, think through how your marketing can best appeal to that segment of your market. Where should you advertise to best reach them? What unique problems or benefits appeal to them? What type of language will resonate for them? How can your product or service be presented or adjusted to meet your niche’s unique needs better than anyone else’s?

There’s an inherent fear involved in telling any part of your market that you don’t want their business. But the business you leave for the generalists will be more than made-up for by the new customers you attract as the “expert” in your segment, and leveraging that position will make your marketing more effective and your business more profitable. To build your business bigger, start by thinking smaller!